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Cavum Clouds

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, NASA’s Terra satellite captured a cluster of cavum clouds, also known as hole-punch clouds, over the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast.

About Cavum Clouds

Top of Form

  • Cavum clouds are characterized by their distinctive appearance, resembling a large circle or ellipse that appears to have been precisely cut out from the clouds.
  • They leave behind feathery wisps in the middle of the hole, giving them a unique and striking appearance.
  • These clouds are also known as hole-punch clouds or fallstreak holes.


  • Cavum clouds are formed under specific atmospheric conditions.
  • When airplanes fly through banks of altocumulus clouds, which are mid-level clouds containing supercooled water droplets, a fascinating process unfolds.
  • As the airplane moves through the cloud bank, it triggers a phenomenon known as adiabatic expansion. This process causes the supercooled water droplets to freeze into ice crystals.
  • These ice crystals then grow in size and weight, eventually becoming heavy enough to fall out of the sky. This falling ice creates a hole in the cloud layer, thus forming the cavum cloud.
  • In the centre of these holes, wispy trails of precipitation can be observed, known as virga, which are the remnants of the falling ice crystals that never reach the ground. Top of Form
Cloud TypeDescription
Cirrus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 High-altitude clouds typically found above 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) with a wispy, curly, or stringy appearance.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Composed primarily of ice crystals, associated with fair weather.

Stratus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Horizontal and layered clouds capable of covering the entire sky in a continuous layer.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Often found close to the Earth’s surface.

Cumulus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Large, puffy clouds that develop vertically into the atmosphere.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Formed by strong updrafts of warm, moist air.

Nimbostratus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Low to middle-level clouds appearing dark grey and often bringing continuous precipitation.
Stratocumulus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Low clouds characterized by irregular masses and rolling or puffy appearance.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Typically found below 2,000 meters (6,500 feet).

Cumulonimbus Clouds路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Towering clouds with dark bases and tall, billowing towers that extend into the atmosphere.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Can lead to severe weather phenomena.

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